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story.lead_photo.caption FILE - In this Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020 file photo, Turkey's research vessel, Oruc Reis anchored off the coast of Antalya on the Mediterranean, Turkey. Greece accused neighbor Turkey of undermining efforts to ease a crisis over drilling rights in the eastern Mediterranean on Monday Oct. 12, 2020, after Turkey announced its survey vessel, the Oruc Reis, would be dispatched for a new research mission in disputed waters. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici, File)

NICOSIA, Cyprus -- Germany's foreign minister on Tuesday criticized Turkey for "unilateral steps" in the eastern Mediterranean that are undercutting efforts to deescalate tensions with Greece and Cyprus over sea boundaries and drilling rights.

Heiko Maas said that it's now up to Turkey to create those conditions "without further provocations" that will allow negotiations to move forward.

Maas said any attempt by a Turkish survey ship to begin prospecting for hydrocarbons in disputed waters around the Greek island of Kastellorizo would strike a "serious blow" to efforts at easing tensions and improving ties between the European Union and Turkey.

Germany's top diplomat also decried Turkey's move to open the beachfront of Famagusta's fenced-off suburb of Varosha in divided Cyprus' breakaway Turkish Cypriot north as a "completely unnecessary and provocative step."

Varosha remained off-limits and in Turkish military control after its Greek Cypriot residents fled in the face of advancing troops in 1974 when Turkey invaded and sliced the island along ethnic lines in response to a coup by supporters of union with Greece.

Cyprus is an EU member, but only its southern Greek Cypriot part -- seat of the internationally recognized government -- enjoys full benefits.

Gallery: Germany decries Turkey's actions in eastern Mediterranean

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"That's why we fully understand the deep sense of frustration felt by Cyprus regarding these unilateral steps by Turkey. The European Union and Germany stand in solidarity with Cyprus and Greece," Maas said through an interpreter after talks with Cypriot counterpart Nikos Christodoulides.

Germany holds the rotating EU presidency and Maas warned against hasty reactions motivated by anger, saying that the bloc must act in its members' best interests and that disputes should be resolved only through direct dialogue.

He said European leaders have given time until December for diplomacy to take hold, "but for that to happen there must be a climate of trust and credibility, something that isn't there now."

Information for this article was contributed by Nicholas Paphitis and Suzan Fraser of The Associated Press.


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